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POL 2108 Lecture Notes - Baruch Spinoza, Collegiants

Political Science
Course Code
POL 2108
Mark Salter

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POL 2108 A - Modern Political Thought I - Guy Côté - 09 Feb. 04
Baruch Spinoza (1632 - 1677)
- later known as Benedict de Spinoza
- ahead of his time in many fields
- one of the first thinkers that emphasized democracy as the best regime
- promotes tolerance (including religious tolerance, relatively new idea at the time)
- died young at 45 y/o
- born in Spain
- he published Ethics
- The Jewish moved to Portugal, then moved to Holland (due to the Spanish Inquisition)
- he grew up in Holland
- He was highly influenced by the tolerance of his community
- also highly influenced by the unconventional thinkers, including the Collegiants
- excommunicated by the Jewish and Christian Community, them saying he was an atheist
- promoted controversial ideas no accepted by both communities
- Does not believe in God and the afterlife, but doesn’t mind anyone else believing in God as
long as it’s based on rational reasons
- makes a clear distinction between God and Religion
- Praying for rain for crops → rational
- Thanking God for scoring a touchdown → irrational
- However, still says to be cautious since religion is based on superstitions, and those
aren’t rational
- Has a problem with the, “God did it” as an explanation for everything
- saw religion as a personal matter, thought that it shouldn’t be an organized matter
- By promoting religion as a personal matter, he was attacking the hierarchy of the
- Thus denies the Jewish special status that they were the chosen ones
- Says the Bible was written by Humans
- Likely made up the bible, or maybe perhaps were witnesses to the similar events
- He denies divine creation of everything
- Denies the idea that humans have free will
- He’s a rationalist
- reason replaces soul
- all humans have the ability to reason
- reason enables people to judge/decide correctly on cost/benefit analysis
- reason is not corrupted by emotions or passions
- He’s a naturalist too
- modernity is based on a clear distinction between humans and nature, at the time
- Humans have reason, animals have instinct
- Spinoza is the first one who abolishes this dichotomy
- However, we can still understand nature through human reason
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